August 1st report: a recap of . . . June!
Oh, it's so divine having internet service. And yet so sad not having a decent camera -- still!
I saw a whole mess of shows in June that I was unable to post on, due to an extended battle with my unnameable, horrendous DSL server. Band of Horses was by far the best of the bunch. I really could have skipped the others altogether, although the Arctic Monkeys would have been great had they not been playing the (grr! ugh!) Roseland. And I can say nothing bad about the Pink Mountaintops. I just can't jump up and down, either, but for moments of jumping up and down (actually, I don't do that annoying jump-up-and-down thing. I'll rock out, hoot and holler, shake my head, hands, hips, and other body parts, but try, unless moshing or crowd-surfing, to keep at least one foot on the floor). All that said, here's a list of what I did see, oh, way back in the day:
1. Nellie McKay
2. Tapes n' Tapes
3. Pink Mountaintops
4. Arctic Monkeys
5. Band of Horses
5. Band of Horses, 6.16.06, Bowery Ballroom
That's Ben Bridwell there, with his hand on the mic, covering all identifying facial (but not other key) characteristics (I planned that shot well, didn't I?). I loved the intensity of this band, Ben's in particular. It's not that I was swooning just like a groupie, which is otherwise certainly possible, but his seeming openness and friendliness to band members, sound people, club employees, and to the audience, of course, is as appealing as it is infectious.
And then there's Bridwell's voice, his wail, his focus and immediacy that is guaranteed, unless you're clad in medieval body armor, to suck you right into his world. This guy wants to feel the good stuff, and if you're here to see his band play, you're most likely part of it. Even as he's turning further inward, closing his eyes into the mic, howling into the lights above, he wants you right there with him.
Band of Horse's songs are wholly derivative of mostly '70s southern and jam rock and roll, yet also fully individualized, mostly by the uniqueness of the vocals and lyrics. The photo (below) of the set list and chords, written in a collage-style notebook and placed right beneath the pedal steel (played by Ben for about half the set), was not adhered to. But it made for a nice visual and tactile accompaniment to the welcome -- and welcoming -- atmosphere the band achieved on stage.
4. Arctic Monkeys, 6.14.06, Roseland
What a sucky venue Roseland is! I had never been, so I had no idea there were whole sections of the club without articulate sound! Or visual access to the stage! Who knew that music venues use, as a selling point, the effin' blocking of sound and sight?!
Not able to position myself strategically for this show, the Arctic Monkeys left no lasting impression on me, even though I liked, from a great distance, with no view, and through horrible sound (mixed, I might add, with equally horrible frat and other drunken audience dither), what I could gather might have been a good performance from a hot band with a scathing live attitude and some damn good songs. Enough said . . . ROSELAND SUCKS!!!
3. Pink Mountaintops, 6.8.06, Southpaw
The first three songs the Pink Mountaintops played had me completely gone -- lost in rock heaven. Thinking something really special was happening, the gentle tumble the band quickly took, into mediocrity and, albeit, a pleasant vibe of sweetness and harmony, was a little disappointing (as too was the extremely sloppy and probably stoned crowd of admirers).
An encore assembly of over twenty friends/musicians, playing every kind of shaker, snare, and pot and pan, was quite the playful mess, but I still wanted more rock and roll. Led by yet another Canadian woodsman-looking, '70s-leaning guitarist and songwriter, the stage was full at all times (even before half of Williamsburg joined them onstage) with guitarists and keyboardists who constantly interchanged instruments with other guitarists and keyboardists. Yes, great fun was had by all. But I still wanted more rock and roll (did I say that already?!).
2. Tapes n' Tapes, 6.6.06 Bowery Ballroom
I was so underwhelmed by this band that I didn't even bother to take pictures (with my lousy camera, I must add). Hype abounds for Tapes n' Tapes, but I guess I missed the sway of that hype. What do they do that's so worthy of raves? A tight trio, even with their new bass player, they were serviceable at best. Nothing caught my ear, or my eye, nor did I understand what it COULD be that would award them such praise among press and bloggers. Ah well. Not to worry. There's much to enjoy elsewhere. . .
Nellie McKay, 6.4.06, Joe's Pub
Although I didn't know exactly what to expect from Nellie McKay, there were warning signs that could have caught my eye and ear: Broadway, nightclubs, the sway of a bombshell chanteuse, the certain cuteness of a girl at her piano, and, (ah yes) more Broadway. Having read about her recent label-dumping from Sony, due to marketing and other difficulties, she had my full sympathy and attention. But that wasn't enough to transcend the "must-leave-club-NOW" irritation I felt during many of her songs and verbal interludes. This is a woman who has both an alluring schtick as well as talent. But mostly, she's a natural performer, someone whose curious confidence can only be attributed to the psychological benefits of having every word, action, and note be utterly adored from birth. I guess I have issues with that which we won't get into here. Let's just say she's not my "type." And I should have figured that out all on my own beforehand.